NDP MPP Joel Harden at an online "Nakba Day" event on May 16 (YouTube)
Joel Harden, NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre and the party’s Critic for Accessibility & Persons with Disabilities, Pensions and Seniors' Affairs, hailed Khalida Jarrar on May 16 as “one leader in a nation of many... the face of a people who refuse to be forgotten.” He went on to say that Jarrar “represents something that happens when we dare to stand up to injustice.”
Jarrar is a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a designated terrorist entity in Canada. She was convicted of incitement and promoting terrorist acts in 2015, and was re-arrested by Israel in November, 2019 on suspicions of “involvement in terror activity.”
Harden’s comments came as part of an online “Nakba Day” event hosted by Palestine House in Mississauga, along with three other groups. Nakba, or “Catastrophe,” refers to the declaration of independence by the State of Israel in 1948.
This incident was not the first involving Harden praising a terrorist leader. Last year, B'nai Brith Canada drew attention to social media posts he had made calling for Jarrar's release from prison and praising her as a “parliamentary colleague.” These comments prompted a public outcry at the time, including condemnation from his Queen's Park colleagues.
During the same May 16 event, Harden also referred to Mohamed Harkat as “my friend.” Harkat is an Algerian national who arrived in Canada in 1995, but was accused by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 2012 of being an al-Qaeda agent. In 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of a security certificate imposed on Harkat by the Government of Canada, and he was ordered deported by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in 2018, though he continues to fight that decision in Federal Court.
In his comments, Harden mentioned a 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Harkat’s favour, but failed to mention the more recent 2014 result.
In response to expressions of concern by B’nai Brith over his most recent comments, Horwath replied: “I have been assured by MPP Harden that should he make any future comments in this regard they will be clearly and unequivocally consistent with our Party’s belief in a peaceful and negotiated resolution to the conflicts in the Middle East respecting the human rights and dignity of all.”
“Effusive and repeated praise for a convicted terrorist leader is inconsistent with the goal of a peaceful resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We thank Opposition Leader Horwath for confirming that sympathy for the PFLP – which has the blood of Jews on its hands – has no place within the Ontario NDP caucus.”